The aghast gulps coming out of Washington Interscholastic Activities Association headquarters Sunday afternoon came from dumbfounded high school basketball coaches.
From those not directly affected by the news of the day:
Top-ranked and defending Class 3A boys champion Rainier Beach (23-3) will play No. 2 Bellevue (23-3) in the opening round of the state tournament Thursday in the Tacoma Dome – a development that got a rise out of everybody at the WIAA state draw.
That marquee matchup also got the prime-time slot – 7:15 p.m.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Neither coach seemed thrilled by that draw. Bellevue coach Chris O’Connor curled his lip and quietly ducked out afterward. Rainier Beach Mike Bethea stuck around a little while longer, mainly to talk to media.
"Just no advantage of being a true No. 1 (seed)," Bethea said. "Bottom line, you’ve got to play the game."
Bethea has hardly been one to get bent out of shape by controversial sideshows. It is a lesson he learned early in his coaching career by the all-time winningest coach in state history – retired Mercer Island coach Ed Pepple.
It came at the 1998 WIAA draw. The Vikings were placed in the same side of the bracket as then-powerhouse Mount Vernon, something that irked Bethea.
Sensing frustration, Pepple advised Bethea not to worry about how the brackets broke.
"He said, ‘You’ve got to play them all anyway, so line them up and let’s go. And if it’s meant to be, you’re going to win,’" Bethea said.
"That was a little lesson from Ed."
Rainier Beach and Bellevue played for the Sea-King District title nearly a week ago – won 70-56 by the Vikings.